Mindfulness And The Power Of Appreciation


To experience and feel appreciation, to show appreciation, to appreciate, requires the simple prerequisite of Mindfulness. And further, Appreciation is Power. Why don’t we experience the Powerfulness of Appreciation more often in our lives?


https://www.everyday-mindfulness.org/mindfulness-and-the-power-of-appreciation/ – Alex Ratcliffe

Not long ago in my capacity as a classroom teacher, I gave an assembly to the whole school on the topic of “Appreciation”, a quality which I saw could perhaps be, well, more appreciated amongst the young people I was teaching and caring for. To my surprise, it was incredibly well-received.

I began with the well-known story of Capt. Charles Plumb who was a Navy fighter pilot in the Vietnam War. Capt. Plumb flew 75 successful combat missions, but on his 76th mission, his plane was shot down by a surface to air missile and exploded. He managed to eject and safely parachuted to the ground, but he was captured and spent 6 years in a Vietnamese prison. When released, he returned home and many years later, he was sitting in a cafe with his wife when another man came over and introduced himself. The man recognized Capt. Plumb and basically told him all that he knew had happened to Plumb in Vietnam. When the Capt. asked how the man knew all that about him, his reply was, “Because I’m the sailor who packed your parachute”. A conversation ensued which included the Capt. telling the sailor how many times over the years he thanked and blessed the man and his nimble fingers who had packed that parachute. He asked the sailor if he kept track of all the parachutes he packed, to which the sailor replied, “No, it’s enough satisfaction for me just to know that I’ve served.”

The meeting was life-changing for Capt. Plumb who at first felt troubled. He realized and pondered the fact that, at the time, he would have often passed that sailor without even as much as a “Good Morning”, given he was “just a sailor” and Plumb was, well, a fighter pilot. How many hours had the sailor spent in the depths of that ship weaving the shrouds and folding the silks of those chutes? At that time the navy fighter pilot could have cared less, until one day his own parachute came along…..Capt. Plumb, the highly decorated war hero, is now a famous motivational speaker on many related subjects, including Appreciation.

The poignant message from Capt. Plumb which I used in my assembly was: Who’s packing your parachute? Who is investing time in you? Are you walking by people every day, important to your life and welfare, that you don’t ever notice? You didn’t get to where you are today by yourself.

And a very touching message it was, about all the people near and far who are and have been integral to our well-being; about all the things to be grateful for and to appreciate, every day in every way, from the greatest to the most simple: “I can walk. I can breathe. My heart works without skipping a beat. I can run and I can sing”. Gratitude and Appreciation.

For the rest of that day, students throughout the school and throughout the day called to me (shouted, in fact) from classrooms and corridors, “We appreciate you Miss!!!”It wore a bit thin by the end of the day. But it caused me to reflect on this more deeply: how will they learn to appreciate? How will I? How do we not take things, people, everything, for granted? How do we experience Appreciation? And what is it really?

My reflections have uncovered a simple truth: To experience and feel appreciation, to show appreciation, to appreciate, requires the simple prerequisite of Mindfulness. And further, Appreciation is Power. Why don’t we experience the Powerfulness of Appreciation more often in our lives?

Before we value anything, the fact that we value anything at all, is because we have first seen it and registered its value. Take our appreciation of a great work of art, for example, a beautiful piece of jewellery or furniture, or a Ming Dynasty vase. And yet we also know the experience of walking through a magnificent museum, past artefacts and exhibitions of great beauty and history, and yet, perhaps in a glaze and a daze, maybe with two or three toddlers in tow. We haven’t seen a thing.

But when it’s a hot day, and you’re downing that cool glass of whatever, or you’re experiencing that appreciative first bite of a juicy ripe peach or luscious orange, you are really there in that sweet and rich moment of consumption. We know this is a different experience; we are there, we are mindful and we know it. We get the full value of it.

So to appreciate, to show appreciation, we have to first be there, in the moment. This is what I found my students lacked. It’s one thing to talk about appreciation; it’s another thing to feel it in your bones. And if we are not fully present with our precious senses, and our even more precious 6th sense, we are missing that valuable connection with that thing, that person, that quality, First, mindfulness, then appreciation, then power.

We can experience this anywhere, anytime, but the practise with people is transformative. The person at the till; the person stacking the shelves; the postman; the waitress; have we seen them? It takes just a moment. As I told my students: We know everyone gets paid for their job, but everyone also appreciates a job well done, and everyone appreciates being appreciated. Everyone loves to be noticed. Everyone loves to be valued. Appreciation breeds appreciation, and that’s power. It starts with knowing they are there.

Even on the telephone; it’s not just a voice; the person at the end of the line helping you or answering you is a person. They answer calls about bills, pills, or shoes all day. I received an email form someone who served me by phone once. It said: “Thank you for all the compliments and your enthusiasm. It makes such a difference when people are so grateful even though I do love my job and being able to help whenever possible.”

This is true for everyone everywhere. One of the “mantras” that the great Vietnamese activist and teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, has written about in his book, The Art of Communicating, is: “I know you are there”. Think about it. Do you know who is there? Does anybody know you are there? And how do you “be there” for someone? In a moment of mindful presence. Just a moment.

Everyday, somewhere, sometime, there is a human being in front of you or next to you. Do we know they are there?

I remember a particularly touching moment of this practice last winter. It’s cold and raining, and I am about to make my umpteenth trip trudging into and out of stores, and in this case to return an item. First, I awake to my condition. This is grace; that we see our condition, as if from a distance, at all: “I am cold and miserable”. The automatic doors open, and I am present in the store, another moment. In that moment, we have choice. In one moment of mindful awareness, I can drop my misery like a hot potato. It only needs a moment, then I can pick it up again if I so choose.

I choose to drop it. I see the tired, bored young people behind the tills; no queue, something to be grateful for, and suddenly, I really appreciate them. I see them, in that moment. I am them and they are me.

A jolly greeting springs forth out of my misery, because in that moment, my misery is gone. I do believe, misery cannot exist in the present moment.

My smiling face invites a smiling face in return; my appreciation of their service is genuine, and they appreciate my appreciation. It’s raining outside, it’s cold, and we are warm in here appreciating each other’s presence. A jolly interaction in the present moment ensues and ends with the young man at the till, happy and not at all bored now, saying, with all warmth and presence, “And a Happy Valentine’s Day to you, Madam”. Awwww.

Every time I return to that shop and those tills, they are keen to serve me.

The thing about any feeling or emotion is that before we express it, we are the first to experience it, as it’s on its way “out” of us: Love, hate, anger……or appreciation. I get a buzz and you get a buzz. But why?

The source of appreciation is in the moment, and the moment is full of power, your own power. Appreciation expresses your power. And you are the first to experience it, on its way out.

So who is packing your parachute? Tell them you appreciate them.

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